Ah, China. Taking down shows from online video websites. And why would they do that? Of course, the reason had to be ‘government regulations’ as always.
But this time, the reaction to the move is being heard across the world, because these aren’t just any shows that have been stopped. The four shows are hugely popular on western television – as well as many other different countries in the east, too. And among these is The Big Bang Theory.
Besides this lovable sitcom starring Jim Parsons as the eccentric whiz Sheldon Cooper, three other television shows that run on Chinese video websites on the internet – namely The Good Wife, The Practice, and NCIS have been taken off. The reason, cited as government regulations, was obviously conveyed by China’s government controlled media.
All these shows have been popularised in China, because of online video companies. They pay to acquire the rights to a show, and then stream them to the public free of cost. But they make money off the advertisements they show. These video sites on the Internet have always had more freedom as to what they wish to publish, whereas other forms of media like television and cinema have been under censorship.
In the past, there have been attempts to curb the freedom of the online video sector, and this could be another effort by China’s government. According to sources, the sites had been discussing with the media branch of the Chinese government about the content. But there was no action taken, since the amount of videos uploaded exponentially exceeded the censorship facilities available.
It is said that last month, the Chinese government issued new rules regarding online video censorship. These stated that any company would have to censor content before uploading videos.
This is not the first time China is going hard on the internet. Previously it has also blocked well known social media commentators, as well as networks like Twitter. People said that this was done to ensure that there is no discussion of sensitive issues, or the creation of dissent, and that all the Chinese agree with what the government is doing. In addition to this, there was also a strict censoring of pornographic content.
So why is all this suddenly happening now? Well, this hue and cry on the monitoring of the internet in China coincides with the rise of one man, Xi Jinping, as president. What immediately followed this was the setting up of a committee on internet security led by him, to “guide public opinion”. Right.
The move to block these hugely popular shows in China provoked strong reactions. People used the Chinese social networks to comment on this. Some felt that there was negligible explicit content in the blocked shows, and the only flaw it may have had was that it portrayed a western lifestyle. But viewers added that as a leader, Mr. Jinping should have realized that it was not a threat. While some people were just angry, others worked around the problem to provide links where the shows could still be watched.
Another important counter to the move would be that shows that originate in other Asian countries like South Korea, have a much wider audience. So the move does not make sense. All in all, the government will hopefully realize the situation as it is, and make amends.